Subject: Re: Returns to service professionals (was Re: New ESR paper: The Magic Cauldron)
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 28 Jun 1999 22:23:50 -0400

   Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 08:13:30 -0700
   From: "Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com>

   As a result, I've started to see a further consequence of the
   analogies between the PC hardware industry and the software
   industry that I outline in the article I wrote for Open Sources
   (see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/tim.html): 
   Just as the proprietary Microsoft software empire was built on
   top of the open PC hardware specification, we're seeing new
   proprietary "infoware" applications being built on top of the
   open specifications and software of the net.

Well, yeah.  But isn't this just a natural progression of software
from proprietary application to infrastructure?  Isn't it likely that
ten years from now those applications will be open source, and
successful companies will have moved on to something else?

I'm not saying we shouldn't push companies to free up code when it
makes sense, which from their point of view means when it is no longer
part of their competitive advantage.  But I don't think your vaguely
apocalyptic language fits the situation.  I think this is the same old
thing, another layer up.

   All of which is to say that I think that Nick (as reported by
   Frank) is right:  the money isn't in software, it's in providing
   net-based services, and the question we ought to be spending some
   time on is how open source plays in that space.  What kind of
   licenses, and what kind of business models, make sense when
   software is key to a company's success, but *software
   distribution* isn't a significant revenue vector for that
   company?

This is hardly an original thought, but I'd say that the most
important free software aspect to net-based services is open standards
based protocols.  For example, perhaps somebody could write a license
saying that you are permitted to use software to communicate across
the net provided it uses protocol such-and-such and only imposes
certain restrictions on how the data may be used.  This could then be
used to build a community of communicating applications which could
not be subverted into a proprietary communication system.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Nevertheless, I'm curious as to
whether this seems to be in the area you are considering, or whether I
have missed the point again.

Ian